Writing about vintage candy (and other sweets)

I’ve always had a major sweet tooth, and love writing scenes with ice-cream, candy, chocolate, sundaes, and baked goods. It’s particularly fun to research vintage candies and sweets, and to create characters with a sweet tooth. My Cinnimin has a particularly intense sweet tooth, and is frequently shown indulging it. Her habit of keeping a bag of candy under her bed and in her purse must’ve been influenced by Claudia in The Baby-Sitters’ Club.

Here are some of the vintage candy ads and dessert recipes I’ve collected, with accompanying excerpts.
Dubble Bubble


Cinni bought the biggest container of popcorn, along with three chocolate egg creams, ten Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, a giant rainbow-swirl lolly, and a large bag of Dubble Bubble.  Max and Harry got popcorn, egg creams, and a big bag of Tootsie Rolls.  Sparky could only look at all the wonderful candy and treats, imagining what they must taste like.  This might not be a grand movie palace like she’d gotten used to, but it was hardly some hole in the wall.

Chiffon pie


Cinni went around to all the baskets of free samples, taking the biggest pieces and digging for crumbs.  A few of the samples were those dreaded, boring, adult sweets like lemon cookies, almond cake, and maple walnut rolls, but almost everything else pleased her palate—thumbprint cookies, chocolate chip bread, blueberry crumb cake, apricot coffeecake, chocolate cookies, cinnamon buns, raspberry bars, hot cross buns, brownies, cupcakes, chocolate éclairs, cherry danishes, fudge, macaroons, meringues, doughnuts, and cookies and cupcakes made to look like cartoon characters and sporting balls.

Strawberry meringue cake


With the house all to themselves, mostly, Babs and Cinni lay on the living room davenport listening to the radio.  When lunchtime came, Babs went into the kitchen and made them sandwiches with peanut butter, hot fudge, caramel sauce, and marshmallow crème.  She set them on a tray, then added two extra-large glasses of fruit punch with lots of sugar stirred in.

“What are you doing home from school so early?” Mr. Filliard asked when he ran across Babs on her way back to the living room. “I thought I heard the radio in the background, but I assumed it was your mother or aunt, or even that kooky Jasper.”

“Oh, Cinni didn’t feel well, and I took her home.  It’s not a big deal.  She’ll be better by tomorrow.”

“In that case, bring her some sweets.  I won’t hear of my pet child not having her every want catered to when she’s ill.” Mr. Filliard loaded up the tray with fudge, chocolate chip cookies, cherry pie, chocolate doughnuts, and strawberry danishes.

Grape LS


This is yours,” Barry said, extending a large basket. “I’ve never given mishloach manot to Gentiles before, but everyone in your family deserves one for being so good to us.  Without your father, we’d still be in Europe, with God knows what kind of future.”

Cinni returned the smile and eagerly took the basket.  She headed back to the davenport with it, and delightedly discovered oranges, hamentaschen, saltwater taffy, gumdrops, chocolate-covered peanuts, a bottle of grape pop, and five silver dollars.

“I packed that one just for you,” Barry said, smiling at her again. “I know what a sweet tooth you have.  You’d never be happy with the mishloach manot we made for your parents and siblings.”

Black Crows candy


Sparky stood back as Cinni, Violet, Tina, and Babs rang the bell and held out their pillowcases.  The woman who answered the door bent down for a large pail of candy and gave each girl a 5th Avenue bar, 3 Musketeers, Tootsie Rolls, and Snickers bars.  Sparky was a little hungry when she saw all the candy they were getting just for putting on costumes and showing up at someone’s house.

GPC vintage


Ivan comes home to laundry strung through the apartment, the smell of chicken dumpling soup, baby cries, two strangers in his living room, and his fiancée lying unresponsive on the davenport, a cold compress on her forehead.

“Papa, I’m very hungry,” Tatyana announces. “Did you buy me candy after you left work?  I didn’t eat any lunch.”

In a daze, Ivan opens his metal lunchpail and hands her two Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, with the wrappers open for her convenience. “Can someone care to explain to me what in the world happened today?”

Whitman's 1944


Yuriy turns into the first ice-cream parlor that appears and finds a green corner booth that almost matches his uniform.  He translates the menu for Inga, and she orders a sundae with chocolate ice-cream, hot fudge, cherries, and crushed candy bars, with an orange egg cream.  Yuriy orders a humbler strawberry ice-cream float.

Orange LS


Inside the theatre, Vsevolod gets Nadezhda a chocolate ice-cream soda with a cherry and whipped cream on top, and gets himself buttered, salted popcorn.  He wishes he could try all the candy on display to make up for twenty-six years of subsisting on reindeer meat, root vegetables, winter berries, and bread.

Writing about vintage bathing suits

Though I’ve always been proudly tomboyish and didn’t get a taste for clothes shopping till age 26, I really enjoy describing vintage clothes in my books. Clothes from previous decades are so fun. Since I love the beach, I particularly enjoy writing about vintage bathing suits. It’s also a perfect post topic for summer.

Here are some pictures of bathing suits from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, with accompanying excerpts.



“Why would Katya show her bare ankles in public?” Anastasiya asks in horror. “It’s bad enough she sometimes wears pants and skirts showing her lower legs, even covered by heavy stockings.”

“I’ll be showing my ankles on Long Island and Coney Island, after I get back from my honeymoon.  Isn’t this a wonderful bathing suit Maarja got me?” Katrin giddily holds up a peacock green satin swimsuit, without the sleeves, long skirts, and wool fabric they’re accustomed to.

“Oh my goodness, it goes clear up to nearly your waist!”

“It reaches my thigh, dolt.  It’s not nearly as revealing as Annette Kellerman’s swimsuit, outlining her legs and crotch.  This is modern without being too scandalous.  Besides, I want to swim instead of sitting on the shore looking beautiful.”



Out on the beach, Anastasiya draws stares and loud gales of laughter due to her outdated bathing dress, a heavy black wool outfit with a hemline falling to her ankles and sleeves extending past her elbows.  It’s painfully severe and old-fashioned even by the standards of the typical bathing dress.  No matter what, Anastasiya refuses to show her ankles and elbows in public.  Her few concessions to practicality are her lack of bathing stockings, lace-up bathing slippers, and a cap.  Katrin meanwhile enjoys the flirting glances of other men, even though she has a wedding ring and is starting to become visibly pregnant.  Kittey, Viktoriya, Alya, and Anya also have modern, lightweight bathing suits which allow them to move freely and actually swim, while Kat, Eliisabet, and Lyuba have more demure bathing dresses, made of satin, with shoulder-length sleeves and hemlines just covering their knees.

The four men have the normal black tank tops falling to their mid-thighs, over snug-fitting shorts, made of ribbed cotton.  Ivan typically has the most conservative bathing suit, paranoid he’ll be arrested for indecency if the wind or water clings to him too tightly or blows anything out of place.  He’s also made sure his top isn’t loose and that the sleeves are as relatively long as possible, so no one will see any of the thirty whiplash scars still emblazoned all over his back.  The children meanwhile are running and toddling about in homemade bathing suits, unburdened by worries of looking either fashionable or immodest.

1930s bathing suits


The last day of August, Cinni got freshened up to go down to the beach, and then strutted around admiring herself in her red bathing suit.  She’d scored a particular coup in finagling her father to let her buy and wear a two-piece bathing suit.  Even if it didn’t show anything past what a normal bathing suit did, she loved the daring feeling of wearing two separate pieces.

1940s swimsuits


Darya climbs out of the pool first and slips into her blue rubber sandals.  She looks down at her red, white, and blue swimsuit, with a loose swing skirt instead of the tighter skirts her bathing suits have always had.  When she doesn’t have much of a body yet, a tighter skirt would only serve to accentuate everything she doesn’t have.  She already needs to have a swimsuit tie so the extra material doesn’t flop around.  The other three also have swimsuits with loose skirts.  Halina has a white swimsuit decorated with medium pink roses, Maja has a solid blue swimsuit, and Oliivia has a red two-piece swimsuit with white polka-dots.  Just two short months ago, none of them dreamt they’d have enough flesh on their bones or feel strong enough to wear swimsuits and go swimming.



Yuriy walks back and forth through the men’s swimsuit section several times before finally settling on a bright blue piece, with enough fabric to ensure modesty.  He steps into the changing room to try it on, and feels satisfied when it’s nice and loose.  The last thing he wants is to have his masculine reflex paying a call when he’s out of the water.  Inga would be so horrified and offended she might never speak or write to him ever again.

1940s swimsuits ad

Yuriy gives thanks for the roomy fabric when he sees Inga in her bathing suit, a simple navy blue and white plaid style with ruching and a long swing skirt.  He’s never seen her body outlined so much before, and is already imagining what she looks like underneath.  This’ll sure help with all those dreams he has about taking her to bed.

September IWSG—New editions and covers


It’s time for the September edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which meets the first Wednesday of every month to commiserate over worries, fears, doubts, and struggles.

I recently put out the third edition of You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan, stripped as promised of all those unnecessary accent aigus I included in Russian words and names for the last 19 years. (As I’ve explained, I think it started as misguided overcompensation for how inaccurately I transliterated certain letters when I’d just learnt the Russian alphabet at thirteen.) I then had to put accent aigus back in French loanwords, like fiancée, ingénue, and soirée.

I believe very strongly in hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence), and as embarrassing as it is that I barely sold any copies and haven’t sold anything since November, it really seems like Hashem were protecting me. During the edit I did while running the book through Kindle Preview, I came across a couple of typos and some formatting errors I never caught. Mind you, I don’t want to give the impression that the book was riddled with them, but there were a few things. Thankfully, I have several older versions to check back on, as well as the original-originals still on disks.


A lot of bizarre things happened to the manuscript as a result of an unnecessary conversion from Pages to Word 2003 to Pages 5.0 to Pages and Word 2003. I thought I’d caught and added back in all the missing/messed-up words and lines, but a handful had slipped through. I also changed a few lines of dialogue to sound less “As you know, Bob” and reflect my greater familiarity with the Imperial Family’s history, particularly in regards to Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, the pretended Emperor in Exile. (His claim was disputed for numerous reasons, and almost no one in the family supported or even liked him.)

The second edition, if you’re wondering, didn’t involve any big changes like that. It just changed the title Tsarevich to Tsesarevich. I have a future post on the differences between the titles Tsarevich, Tsesarevich, Tsarevna, Tsesarevna, and Tsaritsa. No Russian ever referred to his or her heir as “Tsarevich,” even though that title is more common in the English-speaking world.

Tsesarevich headline

I’m hoping to finally hear back from a potential new cover artist sometime within this month, and will issue a fourth edition with a revamped cover. (This artist is definitely legit, but has recently indicated she’s quite in arrears with messages.) I’m definitely proud of the cover I drew with oil pastels, wax pastels, and colored pencils (both wax and oil). I’ve come a long way in my evolution as an artist (particularly in regards to human figures), and I’ve always loved to draw. However, I really feel I might sell more copies with something more professional.

If the price is right, and I like the potential revamped cover enough, I may ask the artist to do a cover for The Twelfth Time: Lyuba and Ivan on the Rocks, which is now going through its final major edit. It’s mostly just removing infodumpesque dialogue and unnecessarily excess verbiage at this point. I decided I’d like to still release it this year after all, in spite of my almost zero sales.

I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts lately saying cover reveals, release day blitzes, and book tours aren’t as exciting or successful as they used to be. A lot of people complain they’re tired of seeing the same book or writer featured on multiple posts a day, or in a very short time period. Have any of you actually experienced a significant uptick in sales because of a book tour or cover reveal/release day party? I’m kind of afraid of once again getting astronomically more congratulations than actual sales, plus the risk of annoying people who already don’t like those posts.

RSW Lucky Number Eleven Update



In memory of my paternal grandpap, who left the material world 10 years ago today. That’s us on his 64th birthday, 2 October 1984. He had the same birthday as Groucho Marx, and I very nearly had the same Jahrzeit as Groucho.


Ready. Set. Write! is a summer-long initiative hosted by Alison MillerKaty UppermanElodie NowodazkijJaime Morrow, and Erin Funk. Each week, participants post brief updates under five headings.

  • How I did on last week’s goal(s)

I took another detour and spent Monday–Friday going over You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan for republication. I’m glad I decided to expunge all the superfluous accent aigus from Russian names and words, since I found a couple of spots which somehow slipped through all those countless rounds of edits, rewrites, and revisions. There were also a few things I wanted to change, for more natural-sounding dialogue or to reflect my greater familiarity with the Imperial Family’s history.

(Side note: If you’re writing about Imperial Russia, or your characters are reflecting back on Imperial Russia, you must refer to the House of Romanov as the Imperial Family, Imperial House, etc., NOT “the Royal Family.” Calling them royals or royalty is fine, but the only correct adjective in relation to their dynasty, court, palaces, family, etc., is Imperial.)

On my WIP, I wrote about 1,000 words.

  • My goal(s) for this week

I’d really like to try to put in more work on my WIP, though now that I’ve renewed my plans to release The Twelfth Time this year, I want to do my final sweep-through before spot-checking through Kindle Preview.

  • A favorite line from my story OR a word or phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised

An emotional roller-coaster journey through life.

  • The biggest challenge I faced this week

Going back and forth between two computers. I made concurrent edits onto the Pages document on my new computer, but I had to make all the master edits on the HTML file which I could only open through the Word file on my old computer. Doing back and forth conversions would’ve meant losing my hyperlinked table of contents, since the current version of Pages can’t hyperlink within a document. May my 8-year-old MacBook Pro continue to be blessed with health and long life!

Waiting to hear back from the potential new cover artist was also a challenge, since it’s now been more than two weeks!

  • Something I love about my WIP

It’s obviously no longer a WIP (thank God!), but of all the emotional moments and best-loved chapters and scenes of Swan, I think the most special to me is watching sweet little Tatyana going from birth to five years old. Every time I’ve gone through the book for editing and such, I love going on that journey with her all over again. Of all the many characters I’ve taken from birth to adulthood, I think my most meaningful, emotional experience has been with Tatyana. It hit me so hard in Journey Through a Dark Forest when her nickname had become the more adult Tanya, no longer the childish Tanyechka.

If you’re wondering, Tatyana was indeed named for the grand duchess.


WeWriWa—A stubborn suitor


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP.  I’m now sharing from the opening of my first Russian historical, You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan (available for sale here). So I don’t give too much away, and since I’m eager to start sharing from my old/new WIP, I’m going to end my snippets here.

After gymnasium (i.e., high school) lets out, Ivan always goes over to his best friend and neighbor Lyuba’s house, along with their other best friend Boris (eventually to be their ex-best friend). This afternoon is particularly hard for Ivan, since he’s expected to pretend everything is normal and Lyuba didn’t just jilt him. When Lyuba’s mother and aunt come home, they discover gluttony, uncouth, clumsy Boris has broken a bowl. Lyuba’s mother demands money to pay for a new bowl, and Boris is only too happy to fork over the requested sum.


“Unlike Kónev, at least I have a ready supply of money.”

“Yes, money is a very important asset in a husband,” Mrs. Zhúkova nods, fixing Iván with a meaningful look. “My daughter needs a husband who can provide for her and any future children, not someone full of idealistic, romantic promises about sailing to America, farms in the Midwest, and love being the only thing a couple needs to get through tough times.”

Iván stalks over to his house next door, cursing himself for being such a passive excuse of a man he just rolled over and took no for an answer when he put his heart on the line and proposed.  Well, if Lyuba thinks he’s going to give up on her this easily, she’s got another think coming.  He’s the only left-handed student in the entire gymnasium because he always withstood the efforts of his teachers, ever since first grade, to try to make him write right-handed, even when they hit him on the hand with rulers and straps, thumped him on the head with heavy books, and threatened to beat him.  He believes God made him left-handed for a reason, the same way he believes he and Lyuba were destined to be husband and wife.  And if he could stay true to his left-handedness under such intense attempts to switch him, then he can be just as committed to staying the course until Lyuba gives into her heart.


For anyone wondering, Mrs. Zhukova is tagged as Mrs. Lebedeva in my metadata since that’s the name she appeared under when I shared excerpts with her during the old Sweet Saturday Samples hop. She’s been a Lebedeva far longer than she’s been a Zhukova.

Next week I’ll start sharing from my alternative history, which opens in 1918. It’s my way of giving a well-deserved happy ending and long life to a beautiful young man who was denied both of those things in real life.